It affects every aspect of our lives, is often said to be the root of all evil, and the analysis of the world that it makes possible – what we call "the economy" – is so important to us that economists have become the high priests of our society. Yet, oddly, there is absolutely no consensus among economists about what money really is.
Some see it primarily as a commodity traded against other commodities, others as a promise, an IOU, and still others as a government edict, or a kind of ration coupon. Most see it as a kind of chaotic amalgam of all of these. Economics textbooks, whose aim is to reassure us that everything is under control, boil money down to three things: it's a "medium of exchange", a "measure of value" and a "store of value". The problem here, though, is that economists cannot agree on the meaning of "value" either.
Perhaps this isn't that surprising. If economists are high priests, then isn't it the role of the priest to preside over some fundamental mystery? No system of unquestioning authority can really work unless there's something at the core of it that nobody could possibly understand. The effectiveness of this approach can be measured by how difficult it is for critics of the current economic system to come up with a convincing alternative. This is crucial because those defending capitalism have long since given up arguing that it is a particularly good economic system, in the sense of one that has any possibility of creating widespread human happiness, security, or even broadly shared prosperity. The only argument they have left is that any other system would be even worse, or, increasingly, that no other system would even be possible. The challenge is always: tell us exactly how a different system would work. This is especially difficult when we don't even know how this one works. (Had anyone tried to explain contemporary capitalism to anyone who had never experienced it, they would never imagine it could possibly work either.)Read the rest at The Guardian (UK)
Note worthy: what is the meaning of money?
by David Graeber
David tweeted "Guardian asked me to write a text accompanying "post-capitalist" money, then changed the headline."